Step Into the Void - Mike Block. © 2020 Bright Shiny Things

CD Spotlight

Worth Investigating

Music for cello by
J S Bach and Mike Block,

'... my feeling was one of spontaneous joy and serenity.'


Bach's Cello Suites are rightly considered to be the pinnacle of the solo cello repertoire. The reasons for this adulation are many, but maybe two of the greatest living interpreters of these works, Yo Yo Ma and Steven Isserlis, give us the best description of what's behind the notes. First Yo Yo Ma:

For almost six decades these works have given me sustenance, comfort and joy during times of stress, celebration and loss. What power does this music possess that even today, after 300 years, it continues to help us navigate through troubled times?

Listen — J S Bach: Prelude (Cello Suite No 1 in G)
(CD1 track 1, 0:01-0:54) © 2020 Mike Block :

Next Steven Isserlis:

Their expressive journey marks them as 'Mystery Suites', travelling from the Nativity (No 1) to the Agony in the Garden (No 2), the Descent of the Holy Spirit (No 3), the Presentation in the Temple (No 4), the Crucifixion (No 5) to the Resurrection (No 6).

Listen — J S Bach: Bourees I and II (Cello Suite No 3 in C)
(CD1 track 17, 0:01-0:49) © 2020 Mike Block :

Whether you agree with these theories or not does not really matter. What is important is the fact that these mighty works present an ongoing formidable challenge to both listener and interpreter to uncover new aspects of what Bach really wanted to convey.

This is precisely what Mike Block is trying to achieve here. Indeed, the title of this issue, Step into the Void, represents Block's feelings and emotions that these Suites stir in him. Quote:

Whether you are a performer or a listener, attempting to comprehend all six of Bach's Cello Suites as a single entity is truly like stepping into the void. If you choose to enter you will likely not be the same person again when you come out the other side.

I do not think I am in a position to comment on Block's interpretations having heard so many different versions, but my feeling was one of spontaneous joy and serenity.

Listen — J S Bach: Gavottes I and II (Cello Suite No 6 in D)
(CD2 track 13, 2:01-2:44) © 2020 Mike Block :

This three-CD-set also includes six instrumental pieces bunched together under the main title, in which Block attempts to describe in musical terms the metamorphosis he experienced when playing these Suites, either in public or privately at home.

Listen — Mike Block: Utter Void (Step Into the Void)
(CD3 track 1, 0:01-0:59) © 2020 Mike Block :

This is an interesting project which is worth investigating, but the inclusion of proper annotations would not have been amiss. Sound and presentation are highly acceptable if not top notch.

Copyright © 23 April 2020 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta






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